How To: Transform a Plain Pillow

How To: Transform a Plain Pillow

Kimber Watson
Feb 26, 2009

Fancy, bold, and interesting pillows can be expensive and hard to come by. Fabulous artwork is something most of us desire but often, can hardly afford. After viewing this AT:SF post featuring artwork by Thomas Campbell, inspiration was found, an an idea instantly emerged. So here's how to turn a simple pillow into your own unique work of art! Instructions after the jump...

Time: About 3-6 hours, depending on your sewing skills

Cost: $30 IKEA cushion (reuse a cushion/pillow if you have one), $2 thread

Pillow, fabric remnants (old clothes, bedding, curtains, ect..), coordinating thread, piece of cardboard, measuring tape or ruler, pencil, fabric marker, sewing machine (with a zig-zag option for the applique), measuring tape or ruler, scissors, straight pins, iron

I should state that I've had no sewing lessons and I'm completely self-taught. For this reason, I realize there might be a better or easier solution, so feel free to improvise where you see fit. For the novice sewer out there, if you have patience, then have the confidence to tackle this project!

1) Take cardboard and draw your design to use as the applique template. I freehand drew mine in the shape of a petal. My template measures 8" long by 2 3/4" at the widest part of the top of the petal.

2) This is the fun part — gather your fabrics! I used old clothes, a couple cloth napkins, and fabric purchased awhile back from a thrift store. Be creative and resourceful and you can probably get away without spending too much at the fabric store. It's wise to use fabrics that require the same care. I recommend using natural fiber fabrics (cotton, wool, hemp, or linen) and avoiding man-made ones (nylon or acrylic). I chose fabrics that contrasted, but coordinated well together. Stripes, solids and one printed fabric in red, navy, black, white, and a pistachio color. Wash, dry, and press all fabrics beforehand.

3) Grab your template, scissors, and fabric marker. Trace the template onto the wrong side (back) of your fabrics. Cut out each applique until you have 22 applique petals. Cut out one circle for the center. My biggest circle had a 2 1/2" diameter (I used two circles). If any applique pieces wrinkled during cutting, press again with your iron.

4) Arrange petals so they make a circular flower design. Start by laying down your first petal, take your second petal and slightly overlap the first one. Do this all the way around, when you get to the last petal, you should tuck it under the first petal. The points of the petals should all point together at the center, but this doesn't have to be perfect because the circle you cut out will cover up the center. Look at how they are arranged, how the colors or patterns work together, and rearrange until the design is pleasing to you. Now use your straight pins and carefully pin petals together so the arrangement stays the same, but you can machine stitch them together. I did this by only pinning three at a time, straight stitching them together at the sides, slide it back into the arrangement to check the fit, add the next couple appliques, pin, and machine stitch again. Repeat this until all pieces are stitched together and press again (mine came up short at the end, so I cut out two more petals and added them so the circle would be complete). Now add your circle to the center, pin, and machine stitch. You should now be able to hold up your flower, as all pieces are joined together.

5) Lay your pillow cover flat, press with iron if necessary, and center the flower onto the cover. I used my tape measure for accuracy. Pin flower down.

6) Now it's time to sew the flower you stitched together to the pillow cover. I found the best way to tackle this was start with one petal, stitch both sides using a straight stitch (don't stitch the curved part of the flower yet), then move to the petal on the opposite side of the one you were working on. Stitch the sides of that petal. Repeat this for the entire flower. Now stitch around the top of each petal, working around in a circular pattern. Go back and outline each petal using your zig-zag stitch. When finished, outline the circle using your zig-zag stitch.

7) Press and insert pillow into your cover. Sit back and enjoy!

This is somewhat of a challenging project, but using these applique techniques, you can easily simplify the pattern and jazz up any pillow.

the Inspiration

(Images: Kimberly Watson, last; Monique)

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